William Ward - Bishop 1827-1838

Bishop WardBorn 19 September 1762 at Saintfield, near Belfast. In Feb 1782 went to London as a teacher and was ordained deacon in 1788 and presumably priested in 1789 as appointed to Mayfair chapel that year. Had come to notice of Bishop Porteous who put him forward as tutor to sons of widowed Duchess of Gloucester, the younger of whom, Lord Goderich later Earl of Ripon, was briefly Prime Minister Aug 1827-Jan 1828. In 1798 appointed vicar of Myland, Colchester; married Anne Hammersley in 1805 by whom had 2 sons and five daughters (eldest daughter died in 1828; eldest son died whilst a student in 1829; a younger daughter had died as an infant). Became Rector of Great Horkesley, Essex in 1818 from where he was appointed Bishop in 1828 though he kept his living at Great Horkesley and divided his time between there and the Island. The Earl of Ripon states that the post, which had just become a crown appointment was initially offered to Rev J.B. Sumner (Bishop of Chester 1828-48 then Archbishop of Canterbury) but on his refusal offered to Ward.

Bishop Ward died 1838 and is buried at Gt Horkesley; his wife died 1841 and is buried with him.

(The following brief review is taken from Manx Church Magazine July 1896)

When Bishop Ward first arrived in the island he very soon felt persuaded that the immediate work he must undertake was the rebuilding of the old, dilapidated Parish Churches and the building of new. He found the population of the island to be 50,000, and Church room only for about 9,000. In the town of Douglas, 7,000 population, Church room for about 1,300, and no free seats, so the 4,000 poor were virtually excluded. This great evil must be remedied at once, but how? The Bishop was not long in devising means procrastination was a word unknown in his vocabulary. He first applied to the Commissioners for Building Churches, and to the Society for the Enlargement of Churches, but the Isle of Man was found to be not within the rules of the former nor the charter of the latter.

An appeal, therefore, to the British public was inevitable. He, however, did not send it broadcast over the country, as is the custom of these days; he sent it to his own friends, and those friends zealously transmitted it to others, so it became widely spread But one of the great means of obtaining the large sums he did was by the missionary exertions of the' apostolic Rev Hugh Stowell, Rector of Ballaugh, who at the Bishop's suggestion readily went forth, travelling through England, cordially received by the Bishop's friends, and was most successful in touching the hearts and opening the purses of many. The Bishop writes from Bishopscourt, Dec. 19, 1828: " I must go beyond the shores of the Isle of Man for means to build Churches, and I trust God will bless and prosper the man of God in the mission on which I am about to send him. Mr. Stowell is truly a man of God, one of the few which remain of the genuine Wilson school. He will come up to the highest idea you have formed of the simplicity, gentleness humility, meekness and sincerity of primitive Christians, possessing not much knowledge of this world but rich in the knowledge and temper of the blessed world to come, an orthodox sound Churchman of the old school. May God bless and reward all those who will take him by the hand and forward his pious objects. God will bless and reward them, the mouth of Christ has spoken it, " He that receiveth a Prophet in the name of a Prophet shall receive a Prophet's reward." Soon after this the Bishop was himself called to England by the severe affliction of the death of his eldest son at Cambridge. His solace was that by being unexpectedly himself in England he could further the cause he had at heart. He stayed for a time with his friend and former pupil Lord Ripon, who was then in the ministry, and from Pembroke House much was done towards swelling the subscription list. This was in April 1829.

About the year 1832 the appeal fell into the hands of a rich and good man, Mr Gordon of Wandsworth Common. The Bishop, who was then in England, soon became acquainted with him. He began by giving his fifties, then his hundreds, and ended by giving his thousands! St. Barnabas' Church in Douglas was one greatly benefited by him. This was the Church the Bishop was most anxious to see rapidly completed, as church room in Douglas was so greatly needed. As soon as it was consecrated and opened it was filled with an overflowing congregation, the Rev. Wm. Carpenter being the first Minister, and a most zealous Pastor In 1838 the Bishop went to England to consult Mr Alexander the Oculist, one eye being quite dark and the other failing. By this time the Parish Churches of Ballaugh and Onchan, and S. Barnabas, in the town of Douglas, were consecrated and filled with good and grateful congregations.

The Parish Churches of Lezayre and Lonan were nearly completed; the College was opened, but the Chapel not yet consecrated, owing to some legal difficulties. The first stone of Kirk Michael Parish Church was laid, and everything in a fair way for the work to proceed. In England his persevering efforts for the good of his diocese were unremitted. He obtained nearly £l,000 of the Government grant for building schoolrooms. To plant schoolrooms and chapels in the mountain districts was his great desire. Here was the money for the schoolrooms, but schoolrooms without churches would not content him. How to get the means of building the churches But he " did not suffer his eyes to sleep nor the temples of his head to take any rest" till he had found out the ways and means; and one morning on coming down to breakfast, he told us with a glowing countenance of how in the night he had planned a scheme of annexing a small chapel with sliding doors opening into the schoolroom, which would thus admit a large congregation, and the sacred Offices to be still all performed in a consecrated spot. These little annexed chapels would cost but little, and his great objective would be accomplished of bringing the House of prayer within reach of these poor mountaineers. Baldwin was the first of these Mountain Valleys in which these ideas and hopes were to be realised. On Wednesday, the 17th of November, 1834, the Bishop, with his son and one of his daughters, visited Baldwin for the purpose of fixing upon the site of the Chapel and Schoolroom. The visit shall be described in the words of the daughter who was with him, taken from her journal written at the time." On Wednesday, November 17th, we left Douglas at 12 o'clock, and reached Baldwin in about an hour, is we attained the last rising ground before reaching the Glen, the view was most lovely. A mountain stream, bright as silver, winds in a beautifully serpentine form through a quiet glen, in which a little village is surrounded almost entirely by the mountains, which are thrown together towards the North in a peculiarly beautiful manner, and the clouds just beginning to break, and the blue sky appear as they partially vanished mellowed the tints upon the hills beyond description, and varied them every moment. The scene was lovely. On arriving at the village, we left the carriage and joined some gentlemen who were come to meet the Bishop. We walked across the rough broken bridge, and ascended the hill. The first thing to be visited was the ancient site of a Chapel still preserved inviolate, and the foundations visible. It is about half a mile from the village. Beyond it, I was taken to see the old Tynwald Mount, on which, till within the last two hundred years, the Laws of the Island were promulgated. It is a most commanding position, from which Douglas Head and the spire of St. Barnabas' Church is visible. To the left are a few scattered mountain dwellings, and below, though not seen, the Glen and Valley of East Baldwin, behind is a vast extent of mountains, which seem to forbid the dwellings of mankind, but far into them, we were informed, are many houses to be found, perhaps a hundred inhabitants, between the spot where we stood and the end of the parish, almost to the foot of Pennypot. There were two other sites viewed as likely to be more favourable for the new Chapel, and the point was left undecided. There was found to be a strong feeling in the village for having it on the old consecrated spot." This then was the Bishop's first sight of this wonderfully interesting spot, which fired all the best feelings of his ardent nature, and quickened his zeal to overcome all obstacles, and plant his favourite scheme of combined schoolroom and chapel, not only in Baldwin but in all the mountain villages. The ancient site was finally decided upon. Mrs. Ward s journal gives the account of the happy day, when the Bishop laid the first stone of the little Chapel. " On we left Castle Mona in Douglas for Baldwin. The carriage could only go to the foot of the ascent; there the Bishop mounted his black pony, the people carrying flags and banners before and after him; I followed in a gig and my two daughters walking at the head of the peasantry, all made the most picturesque procession up the hill through this beautiful valley. The Bishop rode to Mr. Frere's house, there robed and proceeded to walk in a blustering wind, to the appointed spot. An anxious assembly awaited his arrival, and the ceremony of laying the stone, with the usual prayers, took place. The numberless heads and various countenances leaning over a bank just above the Bishop's head, and listening most attentively to the Bishop's voice, was a curious and interesting sight. All was harmony and pleasure and all has proceeded rapidly and successfully. The people have given their labour and helped on the work most willingly as far as they could. There are seventy families in these Glens and round this new building, ready to attend public worship there, and consequently plenty of children to fill the school, of which the Clergyman to be appointed, will take the superintendence, and we trust will feed the flock with Divine Instruction suited to them." On May 14th, 1836, the Bishop consecrated the Chapel.

Further Reading & References

J. Gelling A History of the Manx Church Douglas:Manx National Heritage 1998

E.C.Wilson An Island Bishop, 1762-1838 SPCK:1930 - a biography by his granddaughter.

W.P. Ward Isle of Man and Diocese of Sodor & Mann London:1837 - is a somewhat hastily written 'cut & paste' text to help support Bishop Ward's case against the suppression of the See in 1836 but contains much material revelant to his work on the Island.

A.G.Bradley Our Centenarian Grandfather, 1790-1890 London:[1925] - a biography of Rev Benjamin Philpot who was Vicar General and Archdeacon during Murray's and Ward's time.



Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2000